THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed 906 km west of Ecuador. The islands and their surrounding waters form an Ecuadorian province, a national park, and a biological marine reserve. In the last 200 years, a remarkable 50 plus eruptions have occurred, some threatening the unique flora and fauna, some creating new land. Plant and animal species traversed 1000km of ocean to colonize the islands, leaving species isolated and evolving independently on different islands.
The natural history of the Galapagos Islands has fascinated visitors since their most famous guest Charles Darwin landed there in 1845. During his visit to the islands, Darwin noted that the unique creatures were similar from island to island, but perfectly adapted to their environments which led him to ponder the origin of the islands’ inhabitants. Specifically on what are now called ‘Darwin’s Finches’ eventually provided the basis for his Theory of Natural Selection.
The Galápagos’ various islands are strikingly different. Venture to the small town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island and tour the Charles Darwin Research Station before continuing southwest to catch a glimpse of critters basking in the sun along Santa Cruz’s Turtle Bay, explore Sierra Negra, Isabela Island’s active volcano and enjoy sharing the waters with exuberant tropical fish.